Volunteers Provide a Lifeline for Isolated, Elderly People in New Hampshire

Faith in Action: Replication of the Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers Program

Starting in October 1995, The Caleb Foundation (Caleb) provided transportation, home visiting, and other services to isolated elderly living in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Caleb, based in Swampscott, Mass., develops and manages housing for low- and moderate-income elderly and others. Caleb provides a service coordinator at its subsidized senior housing sites, and the service coordinator realized that seniors out in the community were not getting these services.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) national program Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers Program, Faith in Action®, Generation 2 and Generation 3.

The service coordinator, who was based in the White Mountains region of New Hampshire, realized that seniors out in the community were not getting these services. This grant was aimed at establishing an organization that could fill that gap.

The project director met with 12 of the 24 congregations in the area, with health and human service groups, home health agencies, and hospitals and talked about what the project offered isolated elders in the community.

She also met with police officers, thinking that they could be a good referral source, offering, "Police could have the best knowledge of elders who were abused or neglected or living in unsafe environments. Those elders typically had lived on the fringes of the community all of their life. The only people who came in contact with them were the police, who had received complaints, for example, from neighbors that their dog was running loose."

Key Results

  • The project recruited 149 volunteers, of whom about 60 percent came from churches. The others learned of the project through reading about it in the newspaper or seeing a flyer. Some 40 of the volunteers were from a local elementary school.

    Working with the congregations proved difficult. Many were small, with about 35 to 40 people coming to services each week, and strapped for cash and time.

  • The volunteers provided more than 4,500 hours of assistance to more than 120 elderly or disabled people.

    Funds were also raised from local towns where the director and board members made presentations at town meetings. Fund raising, grants, and contributions from churches completed the needed funding. However, less than five percent of money raised came from religious organizations.